Highlands Ranch (Colo.) quarterback Steve Donatell has quietly led his team to a 4-1 start, completing 52-72 passes for 840 yards and 14 touchdowns and has rushed for 350 yards and five touchdowns.
The dual-threat quarterback has only accumulated two offers, but from two very distinct levels of competition in college football with Nebraska (FBS) and Northern Colorado (FCS).
Rivals.com rates Donatell as a three-star recruit, the No. 19 quarterback nationally and the No. 8 prospect in Colorado. One may wonder why the high school senior has yet to commit to the Cornhuskers, but Donatell said he wants at least two or three options. Northern Colorado may not make the cut to be that second or even third option, but only time will tell.
"I'm still talking to Colorado, Colorado State, Wake Forest and Wyoming," Donatell said. "I've kind of gotten on the radar late with them. It's just kind of a numbers thing. They've kind of just been telling me hey if we have a spot open then we'll contact you, but it's just kind of a waiting game for me."
Tom Elrod and Steve Russ are recruiting him for Wake Forest. Russ and Donatell's father, Ed Donatell, who coaches the San Francisco 49ers secondary have a unique connection. Both were with the Denver Broncos from 1995-99, which includes the two Super Bowl-winning seasons in 1998 and 1999.
"Coach Russ is a young, hyped guy," Donatell said. "When I was out there practicing he was energetic. Coach Elrod is also a great coach obviously. I've just kind of been staying in touch with them, e-mail, phone calls and stuff like that."
Connections such as the one between Russ and Donatell's father can only help, especially when competing against a program with the tradition of Nebraska. If the Huskers are willing to stick their necks out, and be the only other school outside of Northern Colorado to offer the 6-foot-5 and 195-pound prospect Bo Pelini and his staff must see something special.
Being an NFL coach's son has its advantages, especially if the kid is a quarterback and his father coaches defensive backs.
"Last night I'm watching tape on an opponent for this week, and I see that they're playing a lot of cover one," Donatell said. "I called my dad, and said, 'Hey what's a good cover one beater?' That's the kind of stuff he'll help me out with sometimes, and just coverages. Him being a defensive backs coach it helps me out a lot."
Donatell knows coach speak. He analyzes and approaches the game like a coach, because his father has taught him the fundamentals. It also helps that the wisdom has come from a defensive perspective, which enables the younger Donatell to know what goes through a cornerback or safety's mind, giving him an advantage over other quarterbacks his age.
The combination of his knowledge and understanding of the game along with his height and athleticism scream versatility, and Donatell has not always played quarterback. He spent most of his little league days at wide receiver, and did not completely settle in under center until his freshman year of high school.
"They [the Cornhuskers] definitely know that I'm a dual-threat quarterback," Donatell said. "That's what they see me as. That's what they're recruiting me as, but you never know what can happen once you get there with position changes and everything. I'm definitely open to playing wide receiver. I want to be recruited as a quarterback, but I'll do whatever they need me to do."
He appears to be cut out of the same athletic mold as current Nebraska quarterback, sophomore Taylor Martinez, who has proven to be a dual-threat himself. It is natural to think Donatell would fit into the Huskers scheme once Martinez moves on.
Wake Forest's read option component of its offense also seems to go together well with the Colorado product's mobility and savvy football instincts. Like Nebraska the Demon Deacons also have an established sophomore at quarterback in Tanner Price, and with Jim Grobe's known pattern to redshirt nearly every freshman Donatell would have the gift of time to develop and learn.
Donatell said he would love to visit Wake Forest again, but thinks he needs an offer first. He took a trip to Winston-Salem last year, and loved the campus. He said he used to live in the South, so the lifestyle would not be new to him.
"[Nebraska is] definitely the top, because that's the offer so far, but I'm looking in not to just ranking and all that kind of stuff," Donatell said. "There's more to it obviously, the coaching staff, and that's one thing I really brought back with visiting Wake Forest. The [Wake Forest] coaches are loyal, they're honest. What more can you ask for from a coach, and that's one thing I really liked about Wake Forest."
He has not chosen a path of study, but is interested in business or education. Donatell said he either wants to be a business man or coach football like his father.
"The academics are a huge part, and that's one thing my parents and I stress on is life after football if it's not there," Donatell said. "That's one thing Wake Forest definitely has."
As he waits for more offers and his recruitment to take shape Donatell is enjoying the journey, and where he is at. He said it has been fun playing and growing up with the same guys over the last three years, and hopes to win a league and a state championship with them as seniors. His personal and team success this season along with his father's encouragement have kept him from getting anxious during the recruiting process.
"I'm definitely trying to balance both, but definitely my main focus is finishing out my senior season, enjoying it," Donatell said. "At the same time I'm trying to put on my best performances, so I can get recruited. My dad has just kind of told me everything will work out how it's supposed to. He told me not to stress out, just enjoy your senior year."
Donatell appears to be calm and composed, as he seeks to lead his team to a state championship, and evaluate his options following his high school career. He is going to continue waiting for more offers, but hopes to have everything wrapped up with a decision made sometime after the season.
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